by Zainab Cheema (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1435)
Allal al-Fassi, the Moroccan thinker and politician, calls for re-engagement with traditional Islamic scholarship to bring forth political thinking and theory befitting the new realities confronting the Ummah.
In his book, al-Naqd al-Dhati (Self Critique), ‘Allal al-Fassi, thinker and politician in Morocco, presents his political beliefs. He calls for a revisionary approach to scholarship and thinking. While al-Fassi embraces traditional Islamic scholarship, he asks for a re-engagement with the canon that will bring forth political thinking and political theory befitting the new realities confronting the Ummah.
Al-Fassi presents a powerful look at the meaning of power, and the necessity to form an intellectual class that will advocate for the public interest, and the continued circulation of power in society. There is a universalism of membership in this class — it is composed of nothing but engagement with power and public interest.
However, al-Fassi was also a politician; he was founder of the Nationalist Istiqlal Party to resist European policies to carve the country into different areas. He also embraced the continued role of the ‘Alawite king (Mohammad V) as the central axis of the new political system. This loyalty to the ‘Alawite dynasty that had been ruling Morocco since the 17th century would eventually work to throttle the new public contract al-Fassi was hoping to establish, as the king went on to consolidate power in a far more despotic fashion than he could have imagined.
In al-Naqd al-Dhati, al-Fassi writes,
Indeed, there is an element of truth to all the clashing perspectives of governance that are presented today before minds and consciences. Therefore, it is impossible for one approach to fully flower without borrowing from the others, or by preserving their roles, even though it depends before anything else on the psychological and social reality. And indeed, the time has come to work toward reconciling and moving these elements toward harmony, until the different aspects of hukum [rule] are blended one with each other.
We can notice that if logic and self-reliance enable us to distinguish between various forms of politics and its sources then it is certain that history has presented itself to us in a variegated, mixed form, never as something clear and self-evident. For the reasons behind domination, migration, and political conflict, and the transfer of governance from one set of hands to another, in all of them, there is similarity in the presentation of history. That is, understanding external political history of the country helps us in interpreting our internal history and the divergence of generations [from each other].
If we consider ourselves to be the moral foundation for power, it is for that power which works for the rights of the people. For it is not possible to rationally regard ourselves as the only kind among different kinds of political authority. Rather, it is clear that in every component of the political community, every right demanding protection moves toward the affair of just governance, vigilance, and surety from the customs and practices of rule. This is a right that invites everyone, of a matter of necessity, to the affair of rule and governance. Therefore, it is never correct to exclude from the political process any individual belonging to the rest of the Ummah. Every individual must participate in closely observing and participating in the process of governance. For instance, those who absent themselves from the political process can be considered to be morally (akhlaqi) deficient from what is mandatory upon them.
For political thinking — as a matter of public interest — cannot be a practical endeavor, except by creating a general public interest in public affairs, and generating information about it; connection with it; intellectual engagement with it; critique of it; all in the form of an intellectual presence that takes the form of an alert vigilance on behalf of the people. It is only by doing so that we investigate the presence of a general public opinion, which is like a power holding all accountable to it. This is what is meant by the expression “sovereignty of nations” which is still advocated by modern constitutions.
Power is like a public trust in the Ummah; and it is from this trust that it rises to the hands of the leaders and the commander of public affairs. It is the right of the Ummah — no, rather it is mandatory upon the Ummah — to remain vigilant upon the citizens who have been entrusted with its use, and to scrutinize from where and to whom it is moving. And indeed the presence of the polity (dawlah) is what invokes consideration of the historical situations composed within it; the underlying foundations and the needs of the groups whose presence was a response to it.
For, it is this aspect of our condition that greatly influences the colonization of our political presence. The meaning is that with the two great streams of thought that we have long praised — the classical one and the following one — there is no doubt that we must take a serious look at political thinking also. In fact, these two streams of intellectual thought can help us bring about harmony in the different political perspectives into which the Ummah is divided, and repair our decayed system; engaging with them from new standpoints will help us adapt better to the contemporary age and its unique requirements.
It is natural that the issue of the ruling system [that we must work toward] will not be fully presented in our country as long as we confine our thinking wholly to the two streams of thought mentioned above, without branching out into political thought. No doubt, the throne of the Moroccan king is enough to serve as an axis around which a new system can be established. But in order to give this throne and its occupant value, it is important to establish a new contract with the people; and take away all the processes that remove from this contract the characteristics of freedom and balance between members of the Ummah and its different classes.
It is important before everything else to look at the king as a personality above all the different political parties, as symbol of a guardian of the polity and its political processes. And it is important to remain around him like whirling Sufi circles moving in political stability, national vision, and the perpetuation of the life of the polity.